KOBE DESRAMAULTS, MAGNUS NILSSON. ‘COME HOME’ DINNER, 14TH SEPTEMBER 2011
I was blown away by Wednesday’s ‘Come Home’ dinner given by Kobe Desramaults and Magnus Nilsson at Kobe’s restaurant In de Wulf, just across the French/Belgian border near the little town of Dranouter.
They were preaching to the converted, these brilliant young chefs, performing for a gathering of critics, writers and friends, many of whom had already been as far as Magnus’ place, Fäviken Magasinet, North of Stockholm. (There’s an excellent pièce From FoodSnob about it here) So nothing to prove, really. The 18 dishes, presented turnabout between the chefs, were simply a celebration of their friendship, a staged collision of two ‘Northern’ terroirs.
Kobe’s plates were never complacent yet picked me up and cradled me gently after each of Magnus onslaughts. The caramel, milk and butter notes in Kobe’s ox heart cabbage, whey sauce, Zeeland oyster were lifted slightly by the tartness of a mild, grated horseradish – many guests’ favourite dish. His pigeon, seared then rested in hay for two weeks, its breast served alone, sliced and bloody, set on warmed pebbles, tasted smokey-gamey-verging-on-rotteny and was as tender as turkish delight. This was perhaps Kobe’s most challenging course – in ‘normal’ western food comfort zone terms, yet still not a patch on Magnus as he got rougher and rougher with us.
« Bravely extrême », « so totally unforgiving », ”this dish is a snuff movie,” were some of the comments at my table as we ate near raw young leeks, from the root tendrils all the way up to the leathery tips (I couldn’t), potatoes wrapped in old leaves, served with raw-never-been-refrigerated butter, slow-chargrilled monkfish (fabulous), with a lone broccoli leaf and welcome nose-popping condiment, plates with random parts of wild northern birds, breasts, claws, heads sliced in two for easier brain sucking – and their livers and blood mixed in a ruddy cream I felt Magnus should have daubed on my forehead as I entered some kind of primeval order.
This dishes are part of his ‘alphabet’, a sort of big bang of gastronomy, pushing Noma’s philosophy to an extreme. But whereas Rene Redzepi wants only your happiness as you discover his brilliance, Nilsson at times makes you feel like an irrelevant participant in a mad professor’s experiment, clapping his hands to get your attention and giving precise instructions about how to consume each dish. Despite much of the super local effect being lost by the trip his ingredients took, or the fact they were replaced by Belgian equivalents, his cooking drags your palate and mind by the haïr to the very, very basic origins of what we eat and why. It is a fantastically intellectual and disturbing way to eat dinner, a claque much like those I had at Gagnaire’s, Inaki’s, Bras or Noma. (Passard’s ‘shocking’ switch to le végétal in 2001 seems risibly tame now in comparison and his vision all the more brilliantly prescient) But how relieved I was to have Kobe guide us lovingly through the primitive Nordic forest back to red brick Flanders douceur at the end of the meal, with milk chocolate covered marshmallows , smoked caramel ganache and caramelised pork scratching praline. Cream, chocolate, bacon and caramel. Heaven. Take me to dinner, please, not on a ‘journey.’